Jodi Gahagen is giving back to the Windber community and honoring the memory of family and friends at the same time.
As an organizer of Heaven’s Dog Pound, formerly Windber Dog Run, Gahagen has been instrumental in helping raise over $20,000 in the past two years with funds going toward scholarships and community improvement projects.
Heaven’s Dog Pound was formed in June 2012 as a way to honor original Windber Dog Run committee members who have passed away, including Gahagen’s sister, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2009.
“I wanted to be able to keep my sister’s memory alive, but it’s also to remember committee members who have died,” the Windber resident said.
The Windber Dog Run began over 20 years ago and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for community initiatives.
Gahagen hopes through Heaven’s Dog Pound they’ll be able to do the same.
“We want to carry on the tradition as far as rasing money for Windber and helping the community,” she said.
The past two years the committee has held a memorial party at the Windber Recreation Park ballroom that features live bands, food and a basket party to help raise funds.
Both years the group has given two $1,000 scholarships to Windber Area School District in memory of the deceased members.
In addition, money has been used to sponsor meals for the Windber football and basketball teams prior to some games.
They also provided funds to the Windber Area Visioning Experience for the purchase of banners that hang along Graham Avenue.
Gahagen said they recently bought a marble bench that will be placed in Miners’ Park. It will be engraved with the names of the deceased committee members.
“We’re planning to have a dedication service to show off the bench,” she said.
For her efforts in supporting the Windber community, Gahagen is Person of the Week.
Christine Shaulis, who serves as a Heaven’s Dog Pound committee member, has known Gahagen for many years and said she’s someone who will bend over backwards to help people out.
“She’s a very thoughtful and genuine person, and she does a lot for the Windber community,” she said. “The Dog Run was a huge part of Windber and now to have it in honor of those people who are deceased is wonderful. Everyone in town loves it, it’s a part of us. It’s a great idea she had.”
Down the road, the group would like to give funds to improve the ventilation system in the ballroom at Windber Recreation Park, install more benches at Miners’ Park and provide additional money to Windber sporting programs.
“We are glad to give. People just have to ask,” Gahagen said.
Kelly Urban is a general assignment reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kellyurban25.